best film:  Pulp Fiction has a very healthy lead on the other usual suspects here for Bruce Willis. The short list includes Die Hard (1988), 12 Monkeys (1995) with the The Player (1992) in reserve.  However, the single closest film in competition with Pulp Fiction  is 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom from Wes Anderson. The casting of Bruce Willis in a Wes Anderson film did not really make sense on paper – but Willis is sublime as the melancholic, sort of lovelorn Captain Sharp. But again, there is no topping Pulp Fiction here and for just about any actor of a certain age (Willis’ debut is 1980) – there are less than a handful of viable options to better have in this category. On top of that, Willis is sensational in Pulp Fiction. It is difficult to imagine another actor as Butch. Willis gets that extraordinary bit of face time (roughly three minutes) as Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and Ving Rhames soliloquy fill the audio – this is great acting, in a superior scene.


If there is a soft spot in Pulp Fiction – it includes Maria de Medeiros as Fabienne – so even more credit should go to Willis for carrying the film on his back through their scenes together.


best performance: Die Hard. With all due respect to Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Gibson (they have all had their strong moments throughout their career) – Bruce Willis was the correct choice to play John McClane. Willis became a star practically overnight in 1988 with the release of the film. McClane is an everyman who is cool and witty – not bursting apart at the seams with muscles like Arnold or Sly (the two reigning massive Hollywood action stars at the time that predate Willis).


Die Hard (1988)- Willis may not seem it now (he has crucial to reshaping how an action star looks) – but at the time, Willis was considered creative casting. This is pure good and pure evil – much like Shane (1953) with Alan Ladd and Jack Palance – here it is Willis and Alan Rickman.


stylistic innovations/traits:   The strength of Bruce Willis’ case use to revolve around four words: Die Hard – Pulp Fiction – a seminal 1980s genre film, and one of the best films in contemporary cinema history. However, 12 Monkeys (1995) gets better and better (as does Willis’ work in it) with closer study and Willis is a mini revelation in Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – so there is just too much here to ignore Willis or cite his lack of acting range, or bring up the fifty (50) or more bad films he has made over his career (which contains well over 100 credits). He has, frustratingly, not always used his star power for good causes – The Sixth Sense in 1999 is another massive hit so Willis has had plenty of so-called juice in Hollywood for a long time. Certainly, it feels like there should have been more films and roles like Looper (quite the 2012 for Willis when pairing this with Moonrise Kingdom) along the way. Willis gets bragging rights for outacting Tom Hanks in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) and more than a decade later, Sin City (2005) proved to be a nice vehicle for Willis.


from 12 Monkeys – Bruce Willis is admirable in the lead – this is just a half step off his best work—but he proves worthy of the casting when many had their doubts in 1995 – he was obviously a huge star at the time but not known for his acting chops. His back-to-back 1994 and 1995 with this and Pulp Fiction largely put that to rest – even if it may have took all the way till 2012 to fully remind cinephiles once again.


directors worked with: M. Night Shyamalan (2), Frank Miller (2), Robert Rodriguez (2), Sidney Lumet (1), John McTiernan (1), Brian De Palma (1), Robert Altman (1), Quentin Tarantino (1), Terry Gilliam (1), Wes Anderson (1). There are a few asterisks here. One, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez co-direct the two Sin City films – so that is the reason for the mention here. Tarantino is only listed once, though he does direct a scene in Sin City – this is not a Tarantino film. The two with M. Night Shyamalan entries include the short cameo in Split. Also, if this category feels a little padded – Willis is an extra in Lumet’s film (The Verdict) and has just a tiny cameo in Altman’s film (The Player).



top five performances:

  1. Die Hard
  2. Pulp Fiction
  3. Twelve Monkeys
  4. Moonrise Kingdom
  5. Looper



archiveable films

1982- The Verdict
1988- Die Hard
1990- The Bonfire of the Vanities
1991- Mortal Thoughts
1992- The Player
1994- Nobody’s Fool
1994- Pulp Fiction
1995- Twelve Monkeys
1997- The Fifth Element
1999- The Sixth Sense
2005- Sin City
2012- Looper
2012- Moonrise Kingdom
2014- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
2016- Split
2019- Motherless Brooklyn